Film Review: Kimmy Vs. The Reverend
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt!: Kimmy Vs. The Reverend
Little Stranger, Inc. and 3 Arts Entertainment
Streaming on Netflix: 05.12
Tina Fey and Robert Carlock’s zany Netflix sitcom Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt! has always served as a rebuttal to the blatantly untrue notion that is so often put out there by critics of political correctness—that these days, you are required to play it safe and boring, and you can’t joke about anything sensitive anymore. This is simply not true—you’re just required to be actually funny instead of letting shock value do all the work, and Kimmy Schmidt is proof positive of this fact. After all, this is a comedy based around the premise of truly a horrific crime.
Kimmy (Ellie Kemper) was in eighth grade when she was kidnapped by Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne (Jon Hamm). The Reverend held Kimmy and three other women captive for 15 years in an underground bunker and convinced them that a nuclear apocalypse had come, gone and had left them the sole survivors of humanity. There is no subject that is out of bounds for this outrageously silly satire, and it ranges from bitingly brilliant to just plain stupid—though admittedly, plenty of the just-plain-stupid is laugh-out-loud funny, too.
Now, Kimmy is back, still strong as hell, and this time, she’s in her own full-length movie. This installment takes a cue from Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, as this time it’s an interactive experience, the streaming equivalent of a Choose Your Own Adventure book. As Kimmy prepares for her wedding to Freddie (Daniel Radcliffe), a British royal who is distantly in line for the throne, a proverbial monkey wrench is thrown into the works when Kimmy discovers something that leads her to believe that the Reverend may still have one more victim out there, and it’s up to Kimmy find out if this girl is alive, damnit.
Aside from one singular and surprising dramatic moment, the format really only allows for crazy comedy and a sense of adventure, and this is not the most satisfying installment in terms of character growth or emotional impact. It is, however, fast-moving and often hysterical. The cast is having a great time, and Radcliffe is a hoot as Freddie. The interactive element is quite fun, and it gives you “do-overs” if you make choices that are not going to move the story forward. Still, it required numerous choices and watching the whole thing all the way through twice for me to see pretty much everything. This was a big plus for me—I actually could have gone through it at least one more time—and it makes for a delightful, if light and largely substance-free, viewing experience. Kimmy Vs. The Reverend is definitely for those of us who already love the show and its characters, and is likely not meant to have crossover potential. But it’s a lot of laughs coming at a time when we need them.
Damnit. –Patrick Gibbs